Komarno and afterwards

Now that three days have gone by since the meeting of the Slovak and Hungarian prime ministers in Komarno we can assess a little better the outcome of the encounter. The Slovak media were slow to react because there was a long weekend in the country and it was only today that newspapers first appeared after the event. (It seems that Slovaks and Hungarians resemble each other in many, many respects, including that on Sundays and holidays no papers are published!) However, it seems that Robert Fico was dissatisfied with the Slovak reporters who were present at the rather stormy press conference after the Komarno meeting. The same evening he, together with the president of the republic and the speaker of the Slovak parliament, appeared on Slovak public television (STV) and accused the Slovak journalists of having tossed softballs to Gyurcsány; they did not represent the interests of Slovakia. The Hungarian journalists, perhaps not surprisingly, believed that Gyurcsány came out better from the verbal duel. Because I wasn't there I can't judge, but if that was the case Gyurcsány performed a minor miracle. After all, Hungary's position was very much weakened by the provocative behavior of Hungarian skinheads at the soccer match and even more so by the appearance of a uniformed paramilitary group on Slovak soil in remembrance of the 70th anniversary of the First Vienna Award that gave today's southern Slovakia back to Hungary.

Commentators whose sympathies lie with the right keep repeating an old Hungarian adage that can be summarized as "nobody understands us." This is usually uttered when it becomes obvious that western reporters can easily grasp that police at violent soccer matches often act violently and that uniformed paramilitary groups have no place anywhere, especially not in a neighboring country. These commentators usually continue that the West simply can't understand the complexities of Slovak-Hungarian relations. They are quick to condemn these small Hungarian transgressions and slow to address the really serious Hungarian grievances. Most people agree that the current problems stem from Robert Fico's decision to form a coalition with extreme nationalistic parties whose raison d'être is anti-Hungarianism. Until this year among Slovak youth the chief enemy was the Gypsy community. This year, for the first time, Hungarians beat out the Gypsies for this not exactly coveted place. The anti-Hungarian propaganda is working. Unfortunately for the Hungarian cause Fico's coalition government is extremely popular, mainly because of the spectacular economic growth the country has enjoyed in the last five or six years. Gyurcsány, as Slovak papers today rightly pointed out, is not in such an admirable position within his own country. He is not popular and he heads a minority government. Fico promised to have a little chat with Ján Slota about his anti-Hungarian outbursts, but he certainly will not kick the Slovak National Party out of the coalition. Fico also promised to look into the question of Hungarian textbooks. Gyurcsány for his part promised to do something about the extremist groups.

Gyurcsány's promise is going to be difficult to fulfill. Surely, he is a democratic man who hates these nationalistic, semi-nazi organizations and would dearly love to do something about them. But how? He put the burden on the shoulders of the minister of justice, Tibor Draskovics. To highlight some of the difficulties, take the Vienna Award crew. Hungary cannot prevent people from crossing the border into another country belonging to the European Union. I'm certain that these guys did not cross the border in uniform but rather changed clothes once across the border. Moreover, nowhere in the Constitution is there anything about groups who like to march together in uniforms of their own imagination. In brief, in order to handle the problems these groups present one should change the constitution. But the government lacks the two-thirds majority necessary to make a constitutional change. Under the present political situation it is inconceivable that Fidesz would agree to revise the constitution. After all, a lot of votes would go down the drain if the party supported such legislation.

Yes, there is the Paris Peace Treaty (mentioned in one of the comments on this blog). The idea of invoking it has come up repeatedly, even in Hungary. As one constitutional lawyer said today: "we could dust off this forgotten passage of the peace treaty." Indeed, they could. But I can hear the opposing voices. The Treaty says:  "Each government undertook to prevent the resurgence of fascist organizations or any others, whether political, military or semi-military, whose purpose it is to deprive the people of their democratic rights.'' The argument from the other side is easy: these groups are not fascist organizations and they don't want to deprive people of their democratic rights. Indeed, I think it would be very difficult to prove that the Hungarian Guard, for example, wants to deprive people of their democratic rights. I don't doubt for a moment that these people's ideologies are undemocratic, but just try to prove that in court. And, further, try to prove that they want to deprive others of their democratic rights. The Hungarian Guard could proudly wave its list of aims: self-improvement, cultivation of Hungarian culture, charitable activities, and only under extraordinary circumstances assisting Hungarian self-defense efforts. (See http://magyargarda.hu/alapito_nyilatkozat )

Meanwhile Gyurcsány is trying to prove to the nation that he is a good Hungarian. On Monday he wrote a letter to Fico demanding an independent investigation of the police attack on the Hungarian soccer fans. There is no word on the Forum of Hungarian Representatives in the Carpathian Basin (KMKF). In my last blog I suggested that Hungary should give up this superfluous, provocative organization. I was happy to hear that Peter Huncsik of the Slovak Institute of Minority Studies is of the same opinion. In fact, he used the word "sóhivatal" that also occurred to me while writing my blog the other day. "Sóhivatal" literally means "salt office" or in German "Salzamt." Once when salt was a royal monopoly these salt offices had a legitimate reason to exist, but after a while the word acquired a pejorative meaning describing a totally useless organization. Well, this Forum of Hungarian Representatives of the Carpathian Basin sounds like a perfect "sóhivatal." It would be a good idea to get rid of it and thereby remove an irritant to Hungary's relations with her neighbors. However, Fidesz's foreign policy expert Zsolt Németh seems to feel very strongly about the KMKF and therefore I'm not sure whether Gyurcsány can do much. And within his own party Katalin Szili, speaker of the house, is a great supporter of KMKF and a fierce opponent of the prime minister.

Perhaps in a month or so we will know more. I would be delighted if Draskovics found a way to get rid of these guys and the Constitutional Court saw the light.

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Op
Guest

“I would be delighted if Draskovics found a way to get rid of these guys”
One of us must be living in an alternate universe.
When did Draskovics become the good guy?
Are you familiar with his past (and present) activities? He’s a disgrace.
Why is the completely harmless sissy-brigade Hungarian Guard is such a huge problem? Really. What did they do that’s against the law?
Would you like to take their democratic rights away because you’re afraid that they are after yours?
I am not a big fan of the Garda or Jobbik, but I would not like to live in a country where they can be simply banned. I don’t care if it’s the KKK or the Friends of Stalin, as long as they don’t hurt anyone they should be free to do their flag-waving and marching and whatever keeps them happy.
Throw a few eggs at them and get over it.

Op
Guest

“The Guard is doing no good for Hungary’s reputation abroad.”
I’ve never sympathized with any group that enjoys wearing uniforms, and I’m pretty sick of all parades. Still I believe we have no legitimate reason to just “get rid of them”.
I know it’s taboo these days, but it’s difficult to ignore that Hungary has a growing gypsy population creating a growing problem. Most gypsies are unwilling to give up their traditions and the government is incapable to handle the issue. People get tired of being robbed and terrorized on a daily basis, the police are no help, what happens, the Garda. Making the Garda outlaw will send a powerful message to the gypsy community: do as you please, you’re untouchable, Hungarians are not allowed to defend themselves.
I don’t think the Garda is the solution. I also don’t think there’s a simple and politically correct way out of this mess. What would you recommend?

neny
Guest
i read comments and i have to say that there is some mistake about interpretation of democracy. in democracy can’t be place for enemies of democracy. the key element of fascisation of one society is when political structures start to rehabilitate collaborators from ww2. serbia is clerofascistic because here all parties in parliament are far right,except liberal democratic party.here we have law which give status of antifascist and pensions to cetniks (collaborators from ww2),there is schools with name of nikolaj velimirovic(serbian version of slovak hlinka),pm of pupet state milan nedic have bulevard and picture in the goverment building. so please ,i don’t want to hungary to become such clerofascistic scum,don’t give legitimate to magyar garda,don’t say that they have democratic right to assembly and work.because if you do that you will legitimitate violence,you will have revidation of big state project,economic collapse,and hate speech in every day life. here in serbia that groups about i was talked (obraz,dveri,1389…) also try to use that dissabilities of democracy,and unfortunately they have success, because serbian political structures are unresponsible and give them that right to kill,discriminate “democraticaly and frelly”. you will have smile,but they talk about their victim,and call for rights. i like ferenc… Read more »
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